Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction
shall drive it far from him. Prov. 22:15.
What parent, what instructor of children, will not bear sad, but decisive, testimony to the foolishness of the child? ‘A little innocent’ –is the miscalled name of fondness and fancy. One only of Adam’s race, and he–adored be his name! preserved by his holy conception (Luke, 1:35)–lays claim to it. Foolishness is the birthright of all besides. The early development of waywardness and passion, even before the power of speech; before the child is capable of observing and imitating those around him–is a touching, but undeniable, evidence of the innate principle. Resistance therefore cannot begin too early. Education should commence even in the cradle.
Observe–it is foolishness, not childishness. That might belong to an unfallen child. No moral guilt attaches to the recollection “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child.” (1 Cor. 13:11.) A child is to be punished as Mr. Scott wisely observed–‘not for being a child, but for being a sinning child.’ Comparative ignorance, the imperfect and gradual opening of the faculties, constitute the nature, not the sinfulness of the child. The holy “child increased in wisdom.” (Luke 2:52.) But foolishness is the mighty propensity to evil–imbibing wrong principles, forming bad habits, entering into an ungodly course. It means the very root and essence of sin in a fallen nature–the folly of being revolted from a God of love. It includes all the sins of which a child is capable-lying, deceit, willfulness, perverseness, want of submission to authority–a fearful aptness for evil, and revulsion against good. It is not the sheet of pure white paper; not the innocent, or even the tractable, creature, easily guided by proper means, that we have before us; but a little heart full of sin, containing all the seeds of future evil, multiplying to a fruitful harvest.
We delight in our children’s harmless play. We would make ourselves one with them in their sportiveness. But this foolishness–visible every hour before our eyes–never let it be a subject of sport, but of deep and constant sadness. Nor let childhood plead as an excuse for this foolishness. Children’s sins may not be chargeable with the guilt of adult responsibility; yet God has awfully shewn, that they are sins against Himself. The judgment on the “little children” of Bethel is enough to make “both the ears of” thoughtless parents “to tingle.” (2 Kings 2:23, 24)